Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Naught Naught Narrative Justice

An obvious example is the retelling of fairytales. In the cultural zine, Toast, writer Anne Thériault argued that fairytales were probably women’s narratives to start with. They spelt out fantasies — “a prince, a castle, a happy ending” — and fears, such as being taken advantage of by a man or losing one’s children. It wasn’t until the Grimm brothers gained control of fairytales that “beautiful and reasonably spirited young women” morphed into obedient and hard-working ones.

Then, there is the question of medium and money. Storytelling forms have changed dramatically over the last 200 years. Women were rarely in control of the popular narrative because they did not control printing presses, newspapers or film studios. With the tide turning in recent decades, we are seeing fairytales being re-interpreted yet again. Newer versions, particularly animated films, tend to portray princesses as headstrong and quite capable of looking after themselves.Underpinning these re-tellings is the idea of narrative justice. Female characters have rarely been centre-stage in the great epics or screen fantasies of the last century. Sometimes they occupied the margins. Where they did have a major share in the story, it was either to enable, support, or thwart the male protagonists, or to be the prize that must be won. Now, with women occupying more and more public and creative roles and with some semblance of a share in media resources, they have begun to seek out stories that allow us to collectively rethink gender and power.

A lot has changed since Ian Fleming first wrote his spy thrillers and perhaps it is only a matter of time before we see a female Bond. We do already have Salt occupying the high-voltage female spy thriller zone. In contemporary times, particularly for those of us who live in nations other than the U.S. or the U.K., a better question to ask might be: why do people keep making (and watching) Bond films?

Read the full column in The Hindu
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